Every homeowner has been bitten by the renovation bug at some point. You’re watching HGTV, spot that perfect farmhouse kitchen, and start daydreaming about replacing your own. While we love a good DIY, some projects are best left to the pros. But what do you need to know when hiring a contractor to make your dreams a reality?
“The most important thing is having a clearly defined scope of work,” says Laura Yeager Smith of Laura Yeager Smith Home & Design. “The client might be looking at this beautiful magazine photo that has really high-end finishes, but the contractor might be thinking, I’m just going to put an allowance in here for a laminate top.”
Whether you opt for hiring a design firm or to do it yourself, the project should be as detailed as possible in order to get an accurate quote from a contractor.
Once you have that scope of work and your budget ready, you’ll want to look for a contractor that is not only licensed and credentialed, but also specializes in the type of work you’re planning.
“If you wanted to add a built-in, hire a great carpenter rather than a general contractor,” says Yeager Smith. “Or if you need to add recessed lighting, a certified electrician would be your best bet.” However, if your project requires a variety of skill sets (like a full kitchen reno), you’ll want a general contractor to oversee things.
Since the contractor will likely be coming inside your home, you want to ensure you hire someone you trust. Yeager Smith suggests starting by reaching out to your family and friends for recommendations on contractors they’ve used. “Someone you trust who has a positive experience with a contractor, that’s a good first step in finding the right fit for your project,” she says.
After you’ve hired someone, but before any work starts, you’ll want to have a discussion about expectations. Set clear parameters about how the contractor is accessing your home, their daily start and end times, and what their process is for managing any subcontractors who may need to access your home. Make sure they’re insured, and talk about payment schedules, the project’s timeline and the process itself. Be sure to get everything in writing.
“Communication and documentation are crucial to a seamless project,” she says.
Ask Your Contractor These Questions
- Are you certified or licensed?
- Are you insured?
- How long do you expect this project to take?
- What is your punch- in-and-out process at the beginning and end of the day?
- At the end of a project, do you inspect it or do we walk through together to make sure we’re both happy with the results?
- What happens if an unexpected expense occurs?
- What’s your process for a change order if we make a design change, or a material change midstream of the project?
- Do you have any references or a portfolio of work that you can provide prior to starting the project?
Meet The Designer: Laura Yeager Smith is a born-and-raised Clevelander. After graduating from Ohio State University, she swapped coasts and spent nearly a decade launching her interior design career. Now back home, her passion for family and comfortable interiors led her to launch Laura Yeager Smith Home & Design, a boutique interior design firm with a chic storefront in Hudson. @laurayeagersmith